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Technology Review's Briefings are primers on key emerging technologies that promise to be transformational in their impact.

Microprocessors

Introduction

Intel's family of Core i7 chips, which are among today's most powerful desktop processors, have as many as 774 million transistors, with channels just 100 silicon atoms across. The chips have four to six 64-bit computational cores that run at clock speeds of up to 3.3 gigahertz. In volume, one costs about $1,000; correcting for inflation, that's about what the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004, cost in 1971. Incredible advances in silicon technology over the last 40 years have made computers ubiquitous in homes and offices.

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